Translations: National Theatre meets National Poetry Library

Wednesday, February 5, 2020 - 10:44

In December 2019, Ian Rickson’s production of Brian Friel’s modern classic, Translations, returned to our South Bank neighbours, the National Theatre.

Translations sees the prodigal son Owen return to rural Donegal from Dublin with two British army officers who intend to create a map of the area, replacing the Gaelic names with English. It is a powerful account of nationhood and the relationship between England and Ireland, played out in a small community.

In connection with the play’s run at the National Theatre, actors Liadán Dunlea and Fra Fee visited the national Poetry Library here at Southbank Centre to perform a reading of Gearóid Mac Lochlain’s poem of the same name.


'Translations' / 'Aistriúcháin' | A poem by Gearóid Mac Lochlainn

The connection between Gearóid Mac Lochlain’s 'Translations' / 'Aistriúcháin' and the National Poetry Library runs deeper than the medium of Mac Lochain’s work. Established in 2017, the National Poetry Library’s Endangered Poetry Project is an attempt to preserve the poetry of languages on the verge of dying out. An ongoing work, the project last year spawned a groundbreaking anthology, Poems from the Edge of Extinction, edited by National Poetry Librarian, Chris McCabe.

In this behind the scenes video from the National Theatre’s filming of 'Translations' / 'Aistriúcháin', Fee explains more about the connection to the project, and Dunlea highlights the pressure languages can be placed under in an increasingly globalised world. The pair also talk about how Mac Lochain’s poem resonates with Friel’s play.


'Translations' / 'Aistriúcháin' | Behind the scenes


The National Poetry Library is the largest public collection of modern poetry in the world. Located on Level 5 of Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre it is open 11am - 8pm, Tuesdays to Sundays.

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